Use plastic bottles to enter Hope zoo

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

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When Hope Zoo increased its entrance fees by over 200 per cent three years ago, it attracted public backlash for the hike.

But the facility, which is home to 63 species of animals as per its website, is currently offering to cut the rates in half...but only in exchange for recyclable plastic bottles.

Under a programme dubbed ZooCycle, which is designed to foster the habit of recycling in children, the zoo is slashing its entrance fee for children (age three to 11) from from $1,000 to $500 once they take in a minimum of 10 plastic bottles. The fee for adults will move downward from $1,500 to $700 with the handover of a minimum of 20 bottles.

In 2013, the zoo increased its entrance fee for adults from $500 to $1500, and from $300 for children under 11 to $1000.

General Manager Rebecca Harper explained to the Jamaica Observer that the programme was initially only meant for children in grades four to six, but it has been opened up to the general public due to increasing popularity.

"The ZooCycle programme is open to all primary schools right now. Each child and teacher are asked to bring a minimum of 10 bottles. They can bring more if they want, but definitely a minimum of 10 bottles because we want to clean up the nation.

"We are expanding our programme with the support of corporate Jamaica because it has been so successful. We have a waiting list for schools and we have schools calling from all grades wanting to bring their bottles," Harper continued.

ZooCyle started in January and is slated to end in April when the funds from the sponsor — PetroCaribe Development Fund through the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) — become depleted. But Harper, noting that over 5,000 children have so far made use of the ZooCycle facility, stressed the need for additional donors in order to make the programme long term.

"We are aiming to get enough funding for the zoo so we can offer this all year-round. That’s our goal...because we strongly believe it is a good programme. It has been successful, thanks to JSIF and PetroCaribe, and there is so much more we can do," she said.

Outside of this current drive to help clean up the environment, Harper said that the zoo serves as therapy for children with special needs and those in state care and foster families.

"We teach them how to separate their garbage…[but] the children just love the zoo. They get the freedom to run around, enjoy the animals, and spend time with their family. It is just more than animal wellness here, there is also environmental wellness. We make sure we keep the zoo absolutely spotless so you are relaxed, peaceful and calm," said Harper.

"When they go back in their old environment, they use that day at the zoo to cope with whatever they do or have to deal with, and the teachers say how calm the children are after they leave the zoo. For the children with special needs, we use touching and interacting with the animals to get the stimulation they need, and with some problems like cerebral palsy or children with difficult disabilities, it actually gives them the stimulus they need to live," she added.

According to the Hope Zoo website, the zoo was opened in 1961 and was conceived as a Caribbean and Central American facility. It is managed by Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation, which is headed by Kenneth Benjamin.

— Racquel Porter




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